Stevens Professor Aims to Get Finance Industry up to Speed on Tech

Dr. George Calhoun knows that while the Financial Systems Center (FSC) is one of the newest and most exciting resources at Stevens Institute of Technology, it’s just as important to have the foundation in place to ensure it doesn’t stagnate in a fast-changing industry.

He’ll now get that chance as the first acting director of the Center.

Calhoun, a professor in the Howe School and director of its Quantitative Finance program, plans to put his focus on guiding the FSC into its future as a viable academic institution and industry partner. 

“There’s a lot of organization still needed,” Calhoun said. “We have to make sure there’s some forward momentum that we can maintain while we get to the next stage of our development.”

The FSC and its crown jewel, the Hanlon Financial Systems Lab, offer great promise as the university works to enhance its educational offerings, develop deeper collaborations with industry and perform research in areas being rapidly reshaped by technology. 

Organization for the lab and the Center is crucial because of the variety of research done there. Howe faculty use the Center and its assets to investigate quantitative methods, markets performance and efficiencies, and Big Data analytics, among other areas; in addition, the School of Systems and Enterprises runs a program in Financial Engineering and conducts related research of its own. 

MORE: Inside the Financial Systems Center at Stevens

The goal of the FSC is to give Stevens an opportunity to create a foundation for thought leadership in finance and financial systems to address the impact of advanced technology on those industries. Demand for its services figures to increase as a result of impact technology has had on a financial industry that, while it was late to the technological revolution, has made up for it in impact. 

“The financial industry 20, 30 years ago was really a low-tech environment in many ways,” Calhoun said. “The industry has caught up to that very suddenly, and it’s created a new environment with new kinds of risks and new skills required by people who are going into that.” 

To thrive in that environment, Calhoun said, the FSC will continue to emphasize Stevens students, relevant educational opportunities and practical research. 

Companies in finance, he said, “value our students, they recruit them, and I think that’s part of our transaction with the industry, to hopefully enhance that and keep that growing in value.” Under Calhoun, the FSC also will play a leadership in developing short courses, boot camps and conferences.

In research, the opportunities are endless, since industry is struggling to keep up with technology — and regulators are close behind. Many problems are either bigger than the individual firms in question or are not things those companies can handle in-house, Calhoun said.

“Stevens has the raw materials to make this work,” he said. “We have the engineering and science and quantitative methods and computer science, and that’s what you need to create this new focus in the financial domain.” 

Quantitative Finance fast facts

Why: Technology has been a latecomer to finance, but its impact is as deep as it has been sudden. Technology facilitates many transactions, presenting opportunities for improved market efficiency and decision making. But with that comes risk, which has become a central concern of the financial system — today, it represents one-quarter of the U.S. economy, making it a key focus for federal agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission and private companies.

Real world: The FSC’s programs and research have obvious applications in business, but Calhoun also brings more than two decades of experience in the wireless high-tech industry. He has published three books on technology management.